Barack on Immigration, II

Here's what his campaign website has to say about his positions on immigration. I'm still dubious about his support of beefed-up border militarization, which he then admits has only made the situation worse. Is this just lip service to show he's tough on enforcement? He certainly has good facts there about the negative effects of the militarization. The last three sections on this page, Improving Legal Immigration, Bringing People Out of the Shadows, and Honoring our Immigrant Troops are right on the money. Is there a gap between how Senator Obama's office presents his immigration stance and how his -- separate -- campaign office does? How do we as voters find our candidates' real voices? We'll approach this again as elections near.

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Immigrants as Superheroes

Do yourself a favor and check out this exhibit from Mexican-born photographer Dulce Pinzón. The shots are great -- and often beautiful. And the message, that immigrant workers -- in this case Mexicans in New York -- are superheroes for the tribulations they endure to help their families back in Mexico, strikes an important chord.

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Barack Weighs In on Immigration

From the Senate press office of Sen. Barack Obama (not his campaign office):


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) released the following statement on the Senate's failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform:

"Today, the U.S. Senate failed the American people by blocking progress on immigration reform for the second time in two years. By failing to pass a bill, we have done nothing to solve the problem of the more than 2,000 immigrants who cross our borders every day and the 12 million undocumented who are already here, nor have we addressed the very real concerns of American citizens who rightly believe we should protect our borders."

"This bill was by no means perfect, but even though there were provisions that some of us disagreed with, we should have worked to find common ground on a solution to a problem that isn't going away anytime soon. The American people sent us to Washington precisely to take on tough issues like immigration, and they're tired of a politics that holds progress hostage because of Congress' inability to come together and get things done."


An unsurprisingly politic response from presidential hopeful Obama tells us very little about any real passion he might have for working on immigration issues. Thankfully, he admits the bill's imperfections -- and he certainly takes a more realistic view of our legislative process than I have in these pages, by lauding the need for compromise. (But I'll stick to grounded ideals since I'm not trying to rustle up votes.)

I hold a spot in my heart for this eloquent, young star of the Democratic party, a man who could make a much needed and historic change in the Presidency, but I am a bit dismayed by the language used here where his statement refers to the "problem" being the immigrants themselves -- with no mention of the huge problem of the system that really lies at the base of our current turmoil on this issue. Ditto to his pandering to the security-focused masses with the same slight of hand that the government continues to use to paint immigration as an issue of homeland security. It seems to me this kind of thinking holds us back and Obama could lead us forward if he'd step out of line. Let's see.

(I must admit I haven't looked deeply into the Senator's track record on this. I'm told he proposed several amendments to this late bill that may actually have made improvements in the areas of fairness and family unification. Here's what his campaign website has to say about his positions on immigration.)

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This just in-- Senate Bill Fails

46-53 is the final tally. Too much politicking, too little thinking. Perhaps a series of separate, smaller measures -- like independent passage of the direly needed Dream Act -- would eventually add up to meaningful reform and avoid the whirlwind of rhetoric and plotting that has marred this legislative effort for more than a year.

And yet, while the politicians and talking heads have ranted and blundered about, ICE makes its own rules, running roughshod, as the saying goes, over the defenseless; USCIS bureaucracy and restrictiveness continue to fodder our undocumented population; and those panicked among us remain in the dark unassuaged.

But what will happen now? Will another proposal pop up on the floor? Would such a bill be any different? Will the President's supposed pet project find the back burner in his pursuit of a decent legacy? Do we have to wait until after the'08 elections? How can we progress?

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Words and Wisdom

More amendment coverage from The Washington Post, including this:

The defeated amendments were among at least 26 measures up for consideration. Some are designed to stiffen the bill in response to criticism from conservatives, while others are aimed at weakening provisions that immigrants' rights advocates or employers consider too burdensome.

Look at the language used here, the clean, aggressive, powerful terms applied to the conservatives -- "designed", "stiffen the bill", the alliterative crispness of "criticism from conservatives". Compare with the flaccid images of "weakening provisions" and "consider too burdensome", which, of course, make the pro-reform camp sound like a bunch of insidious, wishy-washy whiners.

Again, we run up against how important a role language and the nuance of ideas play in our politics and our lives -- how carelessly we wield them and how oblivious so many of us remain to their influence and their power. Again we see that we cannot simply cry out, beat our heads against the wall, pushing for action. We must open our awareness, cast off the blinders that block out the world around us, and cease to remain slaves to our small-minded wills.

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Beating around the...

It appears the Senate's embattled immigration proposal, back on the table, faces further struggle but one less amendment, one that would have required all undocumented adults to return home to apply for the new bill's provisions. The amendment, proposed by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) lost by a vote of 53-45. (From the AP.)

These so-called "touch-back" provisions -- which already exist in the bill in some form -- make little sense from either a practical or humanitarian perspective. Considering the understandably low level of trust many immigrants hold for immigration authorities -- and the time they'd have to spend, attempting to leave the country, applying for the program, and waiting for the notoriously slow system to process their claims -- how many undocumented immigrants would really pop their heads up and follow such a regulation? Considering the possibility of not being able to return at all -- and the time wasted away from their jobs and families -- I doubt many would acquiesce. Would two undocumented parents of young, U.S.-citizen children really leave their kids here to touch back? It's unreasonable. (And I'm not even discussing those who would be in physical danger if they returned home.) That means we won't have reduced the undocumented population. So what's the point of a provision like this? It's just punitive.

Without her amendment, Hutchison said shortly before the vote, "the amnesty tag that has been put on this bill will remain. It is the key issue in the bill for the American people."

The amnesty tag would remain only because Hutchinson and her ilk find the label advantageous -- because it makes "the American people" close their eyes to the realities of the bill and the nuances of the immigration debate. Allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for a path to legality and perhaps, eventually, achieve permanent residency and citizenship, by paying fees and fines and enduring bureaucracy is hardly an amnesty. They will have paid for their illegality. And even if it is, it might still be the right thing to do.

As for further amendments:
Also expected to be voted on is an amendment by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., that would bar illegal immigrants from eventually getting green cards.

Democratic amendments to give family members of citizens and legal permanent residents more chances to immigrate are also slated for votes.

Bond's idea reveals a rather insidious intent -- to allow immigrants to work here legally but not have a chance at permanent residency. So we can use their labor and send them back home. Certainly, this is all some immigrants want. But for others, it would signal one more slamming door.

The aforementioned Democratic amendments seek only to reverse the provisions in the bill itself that cut the types of familial relationships through which documented immigrants can bring relatives though legal venues. It's no advance. Another reason to vote down this ludicrous "compromise".

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No Dice (Back to Roulette)

It looks like the newest immigration bill has lost its steam, its supporters failing in a vote that would have ended debate on the bill's content and called for a final decision.

This article by Charles Babington from the AP
falls for some of the blunders of misinformation that have held up the process towards real reform. For instance, Babington writes that conservatives' "interests overlapped with those of pro-labor groups concerned about a flood of low-wage workers". That's only a partial truth: For years, many labor unions have been at the forefront of the movement for more-humane and less-regulated immigration for two central reasons: First, as unions of workers, they believe in the rights of all workers to a decent wage and humane working conditions, no matter their country of birth or the color of their skin. Second, those concerned about the undocumented stealing "American jobs" by working for less and in poor conditions should embrace legalizing the undocumented. The only reason they can undercut wages (if indeed they do) is because they aren't recognized by the government. If we legalized their status, then they would have to compete with U.S. workers on an even plane -- and only those best workers would earn jobs. (To say that some people deserve those jobs simply because they were born here is ludicrous -- and contradicts conservatives' own arguments against a welfare state.)

Some brief text analysis:

"In a recent poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, 55 percent of the respondents said penalizing employers who hire illegals is the best way to reduce illegal immigration. One in four said more border agents is the best answer, and 7 percent favored more border fences."

And yet, pro-enforcement legislators insist on using "what the American people want" to justify massive (and expensive) militarization of the border.

"When the word 'amnesty' was not invoked, 62 percent of Republicans said they favored letting illegal immigrants now in the country obtain citizenship if they have jobs, pass background checks and pay fines. But only 47 percent of Republicans said they favored giving amnesty to illegal immigrants if they met those same conditions."

And so we see how deeply words and their meanings, perceived or real, effect our thoughts -- and therefore how important it is to educate ourselves and each other on the realities of situations, so we can see through linguistic manipulation. Those Republicans polled actually favored the reality of a path to citizenship, opposing it only when they saw a different label affixed to it.

"Democrats, independents and moderate and liberal Republicans were most concerned about jobs, but conservative Republicans were about equally concerned with jobs and terrorism."

This really speaks for itself, but I want to point out a related fact that recently came to my attention. Immigration regulation used to reside under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. Now it's part of Homeland Security. See that? The focus went from Justice to Security. That strikes me as a bad sign.

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Compromise Isn't Always Right

Many of those writing on this new immigration proposal fixate on Republican opposition to the bill’s “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants. But such coverage conveniently ignores the strong opposition among the comprehensive-reform camp -- who perhaps have more over which to object. Not only does the bill attempt to tighten our borders -- an ineffective means of reducing undocumented migration that will kill increasingly more people even than it does now -- but it severely hamstrings the meager laws already in place by actually cutting back on the types of relationships through which documented immigrants and U.S. citizens can bring their relatives here and making the process much more difficult for those who will still qualify. What that means is more undocumented immigrants in the USA (because they can’t come through official venues) and more families divided by other people’s politics. So much for family values.

Now, the bill seems in danger itself -- mostly because of the amendments legislators keep trying to tack onto it, crowing about what “the American People” want. Frankly, I’m not sure how they know what people want -- it certainly can’t be from what they called “hearings” last year, which were rather tax-payer-funded campaign stops for anti-immigrant legislators at which they barred opinions that differed from theirs, if they let the American people speak at all.

There is certainly a vociferous pro-enforcement presence in this country now -- unsurprising in the current terrified, nationalistic era in which we toss aside the facts of situations and follow our guts or the guts of the mob without reason. Regardless, if the wizened members of our government (the judiciary) had done what “the American People” wanted 50 years ago, racial segregation would have lasted a lot longer than it did in this country. With our appalling blindness to knowledge and reality, should we sightless really be guiding each other? Of course not. But then who will lead us? Start reading.

(Open Veins will bring you a more detailed examination of the bill when we can. We must follow our own words, after all.)

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